Now I know that Kurzweil is right.


In a previous blog entitled “Why Kurzweil is probably right,” I made this statement,

“Convergence is the way technology leaps forward. Supporting technologies enable formerly impossible things to become suddenly possible.”

That blog was talking about how we are developing AI systems at a rapid pace. I quoted a WIRED magazine article by David Pierce that was previewing consumer AIs already in the marketplace and some of the advancements on the way. Pierce said that a personal agent is,

“…only fully useful when it’s everywhere when it can get to know you in multiple contexts—learning your habits, your likes and dislikes, your routine and schedule. The way to get there is to have your AI colonize as many apps and devices as possible.”

Then, I made my usual cautionary comment about how such technologies will change us. And they will. So, if you follow this blog, you know that I throw cold water onto technological promises as a matter of course. I do this because I believe that someone has to.

Right now I’m preparing my collaborative design studio course. We’re going to be focusing on AR and VR, but since convergence is an undeniable influence on our techno-social future, we will have to keep AI, human augmentation, the Internet of Things, and a host of other emerging technologies on the desktop as well. In researching the background for this class, I read three articles from Peter Diamandis for the Singularity Hub website. I’ve written about Peter before, as well. He’s brilliant. He’s also a cheerleader for the Singularity. So that being said, these articles, one on the Internet of Everything (IoE/IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and another on Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), are full of promises. Most of what we thought of as science fiction, even a couple of years ago are now happening with such speed that Diamandis and his cohorts believe they are imminent in only three years. And by that I mean commonplace.

If that isn’t enough for us to sit up and take notice, then I am reminded of an article from the Silicon Valley Business Journal, another interview with Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil, of course, has pretty much convinced us all by now that the Law of Accelerating Returns is no longer hyperbole. If anyone thought that it was only hype, sheer observation should have brought them to their senses. In this article,
Kurzweil gives this excellent illustration of how exponential growth actually plays out—no longer as a theory but—as demonstrable practice.

“Exponentials are quite seductive because they start out sub-linear. We sequenced one ten-thousandth of the human genome in 1990 and two ten-thousandths in 1991. Halfway through the genome project, 7 ½ years into it, we had sequenced 1 percent. People said, “This is a failure. Seven years, 1 percent. It’s going to take 700 years, just like we said.” Seven years later it was done because 1 percent is only seven doublings from 100 percent — and it had been doubling every year. We don’t think in these exponential terms. And that exponential growth has continued since the end of the genome project. These technologies are now thousands of times more powerful than they were 13 years ago when the genome project was completed.”

When you combine that with the nearly exponential chaos of hundreds of other converging technologies, indeed the changes to our world and behavior are coming at us like a bullet-train. Ask any Indy car driver, when things are happening that fast, you have to be paying attention.
But when the input is like a firehose and the motivations are unknown, how on earth do we do that?

Personally, I see this as a calling for design thinkers worldwide. Those in the profession, schooled in the ways of design thinking have been espousing our essential worth to realm of wicked problems for some time now. Well, problems don’t get more wicked than this.

Maybe we can design an AI that could keep us from doing stupid things with technologies that we can make but cannot yet comprehend the impact of.

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3 thoughts on “Now I know that Kurzweil is right.”

    1. Thanks, but they all seem to be working on my end. Keep in mind, when you get to TWC, you have to scroll to find the voting link. Let me know if you’re still having trouble. Thanks for the heads up.

  1. Great to see the site back up! Now, back up the site, and restore the backup! 😀

    Just read the blog post. I see a couple of counter forces, and they are growing super-exponentially. The first is security. IoT will be the literal death of us all if we don’t fix this. And right now, there appears to be approximately 0 interest by the people doing the building to get it right. The best outcome right now is that there is such a massive (early) failure that everyone shies away from it for a while–like the stock market in the ’30s.

    The second is the incessant growth of bureaucracy. Sure, the value of the data held by any one of Google, Facebook, etc is growing at least at an exponential rate. But the internal wastage is growing much faster. Furthermore, since the value of data grows exponential with the amount that you have, these second generation information age companies are much better positioned to choke out upstarts than has been true in prior centuries or even decades.

    I’m not saying that these are going to stop the explosion–but assuming that we are not in fact looking at a three year horizon (and I’m enough inside to be VERY confident that we are significantly further out than that–we cannot even manage the hardware yet) it seems unlikely that we will continue in this exponential mode for much more than another decade. Growth will continue, but this feels to me much more like the sort of growth that we saw at various industrial-age inflections than the end of history. Yet.

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